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Kulkarni exposes Pay Discrimination Against People with Disabilities

Jun 25 2019

Posted In:

20/20 Blog

Palo Alto, CA – Vinit. Mahajan M.D., Ph.D., associate professor and vice chair of ophthalmology at Stanford, is proud Stanford student Trisha Kulkarni is speaking out against pay inequality for people with disabilities in her opinion piece for The Stanford Daily, “People with disabilities are still subjected to sub-minimum wages.” She has been Dr. Mahajan’s patient for years, and in the time he has known her, he has been impressed by her fighting spirit, incredible drive, and positive outlook on life.

Dr. Mahajan said, “Trisha is truly inspiring. I have no doubt that she will make life better for others as she pursues her goals.”

Trisha strongly believes that high expectations matter when it comes to performance, especially for people with disabilities.

Trisha explained, “The best environment for people with a disability to thrive is one in which they are not isolated or demoted because of a characteristic that is not in their control. We should all be appreciated for the unique perspectives and contributions we bring to the table. Diversity and inclusion should not be a chore but something worth celebrating,”

Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act makes it difficult to build this kind of supportive environment for people with disabilities because it excludes disabled people from minimum wage protections and reinforces archaic notions that people with disabilities aren’t as productive as their non-disabled counterparts. This assumption allows employers to pay their employees with disabilities sub-minimum wages, reinforcing the generally low expectations people have for these workers.

“I was blessed to have the ongoing support of my friends and family throughout my vision loss. It was because of people like Dr. Mahajan, who never doubted my capabilities, that I was challenged to reach my highest potential,” explained Trisha.

Trisha first heard of section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act through her work with the National Association of Blind Students (NABS), the student division of the National Federation of the Blind. The article she wrote for the Stanford Daily was part of a greater initiative by the NABS Legislative Advocacy Committee to teach students about this law and to take action by writing about the issue in local and school newspapers.

Trisha encourages the public to condemn legislation discriminating against people with disabilities by contacting their state and federal legislators. She also points out that contracting with businesses and organizations that believe in fair pay and treat every employee with respect can have a positive impact.

She said, “When it comes to how the public can help resolve this violation of human rights, the best action is to not tolerate it.”

To learn more about Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, click here.

Caption: Trisha, left, with her sister, Esha, her mother, Benu, her father, Raj, and her sister, Nina.